Monday, September 14, 2015
An Authentic Pastor, 2nd Edition
One of my favorite regional newspapers just had a picture of a closed church on the front page.
The well-written column was about the many churches that are dead, closed, and for sale in Rockford, Illinois.
Did you know 10+ churches close their doors for good/bad/ugly every day in America?
Did you know over a thousand pastors in America quit every month?
What the...is going on?
While I may be wrong, I think a major reason among many minor ones is the lack of authentic-to-Jesus-by-the-book undershepherding aka pastoral leadership.
Yeah, I know lots of pewsitters just wanna check in and check out without being hassled to, uh, the truth about discipleship.
Yeah, I know most of today's pulpiteers are more concerned with personal perks, pleasures, and pensions than saving souls and serving Jesus by the book; which accounts for their penchant for popularity over fidelity that translates as being good humor women/men who agree with the last person that they've talked to...like bad sentences ending in prepositions.
Yeah, I know my personal logs get in the way of me seeing straight about true-to-Jesus-by-the-book undershepherding.
But who ever said my/our bad examples change the truth about what it really means to lead by following Jesus by the book?
Sooooooo acknowledging lukewarm-about-Jesus-by-the-book clergy are a major but not the only problem in the decline of the church, I pulled out one of the few books that I still keep for some chastening commentary that isn't as outdated as some will protest/rationalize (David Watson's Called and Committed: World-Changing Discipleship, 1982): "With such numerical strength, such a relevant message, and such spiritual power, why is the Christian church, especially in the West, so comparatively ineffective?...Why? Because Christians in the West have largely neglected what it means to be disciples of Christ."
He contends: "The vast majority of Western Christians - church-members, pew-fillers, hymn-singers, sermon-tasters, Bible-readers, even born-again-believers or Spirit-filled-charismatics, are not true disciples of Jesus."
More: "If we were willing to become disciples, the church in the West would be transformed, and the impact on society would be staggering. And this is no idle claim. In the first century, a tiny handful of inexperienced, timid disciples initiated, in the power of the Spirit, the greatest spiritual revolution the world has ever known. Within three centuries, even the mighty Roman Empire yielded to the power of the gospel of Christ."
Illustration: "A Communist once challenged a Western Christian: 'The gospel is a much more powerful weapon for the renewal of society than is our Marxist philosophy, but it is we who will finally beat you...We Communists do not play with words. We are realists, and seeing our object, we know how to obtain the means...We believe in our message, and we are ready to sacrifice everything, even our lives...But you people are afraid to soil your hands.'"
Local pastors aren't the only problem...just the major one.
Recently, a friend from another church in town who serves on an organizational board with me asked if I'm ever afraid of people in the church who might not like me for being so outspoken about my/our failings in following Jesus by the book.
After I said I know I'm going to spend a lot longer time with Jesus than anybody else in the end, she said, "Oh, I forgot you care more about being right with the Lord than people who don't really care about being right with the Lord."
See the old columns about Don Norek for more context!
Clergy aren't the only reasons for the decline of Christianity in America.
Buuuuuuut they are the major one in a James 3:1 kinda way.
While I may be wrong, and don't try to tell me that I'm wrong unless it's by Jesus and Holy Scripture and common sense, I think dying churches could be revived if they would throw out poser-pastors and call authentic replacements.
Watch the birds!
They go where there is food!
Scratching the Surface
An Authentic Pastor
(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Balanced Pastoral Ministry)
Jesus said His soldiers/disciples/followers must be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. said Jesus calls His Church leaders to the difficult balance of being tough-minded and tenderhearted.
Not sacrificing either.
Complementing each with the other.
It is not enough to be tough-minded.
It is not enough to be tenderhearted.
Both are required of His soldiers/disciples/followers.
King explained, “Jesus recognized the need for blending opposites. He knew that His disciples would face a difficult and hostile world, where they would confront the recalcitrance of political officials and the intransigence of the protectors of the old order. He knew they would meet cold and arrogant men whose hearts had been hardened by the long winter of traditionalism. So He said to them, ‘Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.’ And He gave them a formula for action: ‘Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.’”
Fleshing that out, King continued, “We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart…To have serpentlike qualities devoid of dovelike qualities is to be passionless, mean, and selfish. To have dovelike without serpentlike qualities is to be sentimental, anemic, and aimless.”
In a time when clergy have become more concerned with saving their own vocational skins than souls entrusted to them, Jesus’ soldiers/disciples/followers are tough-minded and tenderhearted; salting (stinging to heal), shining (exposing darkness and reflecting Someone better), and leavenating (mixing in to make better).
In a time when clergy have become good humor men agreeing the last person that they’ve talked to lest their perks and pensions be risked, Jesus’ soldiers/disciples/followers are tough-minded and tenderhearted; looking up, standing up, speaking up, and acting up for Jesus by the book even if it means not being liked by pulpiteers and pewsitters with lower standards.
Jesus wants everybody saved; and part of that saving ministry requires His soldiers/disciples/followers to pray and labor to enflesh the difficult balance of tough-mindedness and tenderheartedness.
Blessings and Love!